Five years ago, Judd Dunn, a hard-edged Texas Ranger, put Christabel Gaines's father behind barswhere he belonged. But Judd's involvement in Crissy's life was far from over. With their jointly owned ranch on the verge of bankruptcy, Judd wed her in name only, promising to save their land and vowing to ignore the sexual tension between them.
Now, just when Judd decides to release Crissy from their sham of a marriage, he is blindsided by a bloodthirsty foe who is setting the stage for unspeakable evil by preying upon Judd's greatest weaknesshis wife. No longer a starry-eyed schoolgirl, Crissy's a smart, fearless woman with unfulfilled desires. And she will do anything in the name of loveincluding taking a bullet for her husband.
With their very lives at stake, Crissy and Judd must confront their darkest demons, their new rivals and their deepest desiresand face up to a mutual destiny they cannot outrun.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
The prolific author of more than one hundred books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A New York Times bestselling author and voted one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
By Diana Palmer
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. All right reserved. ISBN: 1-55166-708-8
Chapter OneIt was a blistering hot day in south Texas, even for early September. Christabel Gaines was
wearing a low-cut white top with faded blue jeans, a book bag slung casually over one
shoulder. The top outlined her small, firm breasts and the jeans clung lovingly to every softly
rounded line of her young body. The faint breeze caught her long blond hair in her pretty
bow-shaped mouth, against her wide forehead and high cheekbones. She moved the strands away,
her big, warm brown eyes amused at something one of the students with her was saying about a
classmate. It was a long, dull Monday morning.
Debbie, a girl in her computer class, was suddenly staring past Christabel toward the parking
lot. She whistled softly. "Well! I know what I want for Christmas," she said in a loud whisper.
Teresa, another classmate, was also staring. "Hubba, hubba," she said with a wicked grin,
wiggling her eyebrows. "Anybody know who he is?"
Curious, Christabel turned around to see a tall, darkly handsome man walk gracefully across the
lawn toward them. He was wearing a cream-colored Stetson, jerked down over his eyes. His
neat long-sleeved white cotton shirt was fastened with a turquoise bola tie. His long, powerful
legs were encased in gray slacks, his feet in gray hand-tooledboots. On his shirt pocket, a silver
star in a circle glittered in the sunlight. Across his lean hips, a brown leather holster and gunbelt
were fastened. In the gunbelt was a .45 caliber Ruger Vaquero pistol. He usually carried an
automatic pistol, a .45 Colt ACP, but it was having a new custom handle and the Texas Ranger
star added. Today also happened to be match day at the Jacobsville Gun Club's Single Action
Shooting Society, which he belonged to. The quick-draw-and-shoot group wore Western garb
to meets. So it was convenient for him to wear the wheel gun to work just this once.
"What have you girls done?" one of the boys asked with mock surprise. "The Texas Rangers
are after somebody!"
Christabel didn't say a word. She just stared with the others, but her dark eyes twinkled as she
watched him stride toward her with that single-minded determination that made him so good at
his job. He was the sexiest, most wonderful man in the world. She owed him everything she
had, everything she was. Sometimes she wished with all her heart that she'd been born beautiful,
and maybe then he'd notice her the way she wanted him to. She smiled secretly, wondering
what the other girls would say if they knew her true relationship with that dynamo Texas Ranger.
Judd Dunn was thirty-four. He'd spent most of his life in law enforcement, and he was good at
it. He'd been with Company D of the Texas Rangers for five years. He'd been up for promotion
to lieutenant, but he'd turned it down because that was more of an administrative job and he
liked field work better. He kept that long, lean body fit by working on the ranch, ownership of
which he shared with Christabel.
He'd been made responsible for Christabel when she was only sixteen. The D bar G Ranch had
been run-down, flat- busted, and ready to crash and burn. Judd had pulled it out of the red and
made it show a profit. Over the years, he'd put his own money into enlarging the crossbreed
beef cattle herd they oversaw. With his canny business sense, and Christabel's knowledge of
computers, they'd been just beginning to show a small profit. It had allowed Christabel to work
on her diploma in computer programming, and Judd even had an occasional spending spree. His
last, a year ago, involved that cream-colored Stetson slanted over his dark brow. It was made
of compressed beaver fur and it had cost him a paycheck. It did suit him, she had to admit. He
looked rakishly handsome. Sadly, there hadn't been any spending sprees this year. There had
been a drought and cattle prices had dropped. Times were hard again, just when they'd been
Any other man would have noticed with amusement the rapt stares of Christabel's two pretty
companions. Judd paid them the same attention he'd have given pine straw. He had something
on his mind, and nothing would divert him until he'd resolved it.
He walked right up to Christabel, towering over her, to the astonishment of her classmates.
"We've had an offer," he said, taking her by the upper arm as impersonally as he'd have an
apprehended felon. "I need to talk to you."
"Judd, I'm only between classes," she protested.
"This won't take a minute," he muttered, narrowing his black eyes as he searched for a secluded
spot. He found one under a big live oak tree. "Come on."
She was escorted forcibly to the tree while her companions watched with wide-eyed curiosity.
Later, she knew, she was going to be the focus of some probing questions.
"Not that I'm not glad to see you," she pointed out when he released her abruptly, away from
prying ears, "but I only have five minutes ...!"
"Then don't waste them talking," he cut her off abruptly. His voice was deep, dark velvet, even
when he didn't mean it to be. It sent delicious shivers down Christabel's spine.
"Okay," she conceded with a sigh. She held out her hand, palm-up.
He noted the signet ring - his signet ring - that she always wore on her ring finger. Although
she'd had it resized, it was still too big for her slender hand. But she insisted on wearing it.
She followed his gaze and flexed her hand. "Nobody knows," she said. "I don't gossip."
"That would be the day," he agreed, and for just an instant, affectionate humor made those
deep-set black eyes twinkle.
"So, what's the problem?"
"It's not a problem, exactly," he said, resting his right hand lazily on the butt of the pistol. The
Texas Ranger emblem was carved into the maple wood handle. The new grip for his automatic
would have the same wood and custom emblem. The holster and gunbelt that held it were
hand-tooled tan leather. "We've had an offer from a film crew. They've been surveying the land
around here, with a representative from the state film commission, looking for a likely spot to
site a fictitious ranch. They like ours."
"A film crew." She bit her full lower lip. "Judd, I don't like a lot of people around," she began.
"I know that. But we want to buy another purebred herd sire, don't we," he continued, "and if
we get the right kind, he's going to be expensive. They've offered us thirty-five thousand dollars
for the use of the ranch for a few weeks' filming. That would put us over the top. We could even
enlarge our electric fencing and replace the tractor."
She whistled. That amount of money seemed like a fortune. It was always something on a ranch,
equipment breakdown or cowboys who wanted more money, or the electric pump went and
there was no water. In between, the vet had to be called out to look at sick cattle, there were
ear tags and butane for branding, and fencing materials ... She wondered what it would be like
to be rich and have anything she wanted. The ranch that had belonged jointly to his uncle and
her father was still a long way from being prosperous.
"Stop daydreaming," he said curtly. "I need an answer. I've got a case waiting."
Her eyes widened. "A case? Which case?"
His eyes narrowed. "Not now."
"It's the homicide, isn't it?" she asked excitedly. "The young woman in Victoria who was found
with her throat cut, lying in a ditch with only a blouse on. You've got a lead!"
"I'm not telling you anything."
She moved closer. "Listen, I bought fresh apples this morning. I've got stick cinnamon. Brown
sugar." She leaned closer. "Real butter. Pastry flour."
"Stop it," he groaned.
"Can't you just see those apples, bubbling away in that crust, until it gets to be a nice, soft,
beautiful, flaky ..."
"All right!" he ground out, glancing around quickly to make sure nobody was close enough to
hear. "She was the wife of a local rancher," he told her. "Her husband's story checks out and
she didn't have an enemy in the world. We think it was random."
"No suspects at all?"
"Not yet. Not much trace evidence, either, except for one hair and a few fibers of highly colored
cloth that didn't match the blouse she was wearing," he said. He glared at her. "And that's all
you're getting, apple pie or no apple pie!"
"Okay," she said, giving in with good grace. She searched his lean, handsome face. "You want
us to let the movie company move in," she added with keen perception.
Excerpted from Lawless by Diana Palmer
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.